Linux: How to backup hard disk partition table (MBR)

Posted on in Categories Debian Linux, File system, Gentoo Linux, Howto, Linux, RedHat/Fedora Linux, Suse Linux, Sys admin, Tips, Troubleshooting, Ubuntu Linux, UNIX last updated September 3, 2007

If you don’t want to take any chances with your data, it is recommended that you backup hard disk partition table. Last Friday I was discussing some issues with one of our customer and he pointed out me dd command.

Backup MBR with dd command

dd the old good command which now backup partition tables even writes CDs ;). Backing up partition is nothing but actually backing up MBR (master boot record). The command is as follows for backing up MBR stored on /dev/sdX or /dev/hdX :
# dd if=/dev/sdX of=/tmp/sda-mbr.bin bs=512 count=1

Replace X with actual device name such as /dev/sda.

Now to restore partition table to disk, all you need to do is use dd command:
# dd if= sda-mbr.bin of=/dev/sdX bs=1 count=64 skip=446 seek=446

dd command works with Solaris, HP-UX and all other UNIX like operating systems. Read man page of dd for more info.

Restore Debian Linux Grub boot loader

Posted on in Categories Debian Linux, Tips, Troubleshooting, Ubuntu Linux last updated July 26, 2007

Recently my hard disk went bad (some bad sectors developed), my boot.ini (Windows XP boot file) corrupted. I was using NT boot loader to load Linux. So I need to repair the Grub i.e. restore Grub in master boot record (MBR).

Today is national holiday (I-DAY) and I wanna watch TV. Problem is neither I can boot to Linux nor using XP. So I just took my Debian GNU/Linux DVD and booting started when I had presented installation option (after networking dialog prompt) :
1) Press ALT+F2 (or ALT+CTRL+F2) to get shell prompt
2) Then get the partition tables for the devices using fdisk command:
# fdisk -l

3)When you type fdisk -l, you should see your partition name: /dev/scsi/host0/bus0/target0/lun0/part1 (for IDE disk it display same device file in IDE directory)

4)Once you identified your device file, mount disk using mount command:
# mkdir /mydisk
# mount /dev/scsi/host0/bus0/target0/lun0/part1 /mydisk

5) Next use chroot command to start interactive shell with special root directory i.e. /mydisk will act as root directory.
# chroot /mydisk

6)Use grub-install command to reinstall grub (SCSI disk):
# grub-install /dev/sda

If you have IDE device following command :
# grub-install /dev/hda

Again replace /dev/hda and /dev/sda with your actual device names.

7)Type exit and reboot the system. You should see your GRUB and Linux again.
# exit

Other choice was to use Linux Live CD (e.g. Mepis) and do the above procedure. Well, I could have used the Mepis to watch TV but I had some data and emails in Tunderbird so I opted to restore the Grub; watched TV, took backup of emails and now I will put new 120 GiB hard disk tomorrow :D